Something I really appreciate about being in the lab, is the freedom to explore. There is a systematic way that as a group, we go about our somatic exploration, but there is room to deepen any exploration you choose.
Generally, the first few days are quite structured and, once we reach the viscera, somanauts begin to veer off into areas of personal interest. This is where I learn the most.
Once in a #dissectionlab, I had a tablemate who wanted to cut everything in half to have a look inside. Our method generally, is to peel away the layers in the same way you would peel an onion but this guy wanted to cut right through. As a result, I saw some amazing things in that lab.
Our donor, “Art”, was a 98 year old gift of beauty. He came to us with a speedo suntan and an erection that would be the envy of many– the embalming process fills the body with fluid, giving the male donors something they can be proud to show off in the lab.
When we opened Art’s gallbladder, he revealed to us a large gallstone which our tablemate cut it in half. WOW! The stone when whole, was about the size and shape of large macadamia nut. It was black with a deep emerald green hue, which in and of itself was beautiful. What we found inside was astonishing. It was a clear crystal stone! We joked about how things might have gone down if he’d had it surgically removed and turned it into a piece of jewelry: “my, what a gorgeous stone!”… “Thank you. I made it myself. IN. MY. GALLBLADDER!”
Another time, someone in the lab was interested in bone. This person cleaned off all the bones and held together the joints while moving them in anatomical ways. I had never before seen such obvious rotations and glides that are somewhat unique to each body. For the anatomists out there, this is really something to see (think about the pivot of the radial head against the ulna).
Imagine having a dental assistant in the lab, pulling teeth. Artists sketching what they see. Curious minds shaving away the tissue of the lungs to reveal the tree like structures of the bronchioles. Dissecting the matrix that holds together your fat cells…
The body has so much to reveal, and the different views shown to us by differing fields of interest are so valuable. Which brings me to the WHY of The Sagittal Cut: Each time I have been in the lab we have looked at the brain in the same way. Basically, the skull cap is removed so that we can pull out the intact brain and have a look at the underside where the cranial nerves are (so cool). So a few years ago, I set out to do the familiar. Just before the first cranial cut, Gil suggested I do something different: cut sagittally. So I did, and although this gave a really cool view of the pineal and pituitary glands, the corpus callosum and cerebellum, this was all very foreign territory to me and overwhelm made me miss almost everything.
After returning home and going back to work, holding a head in my hands at the end of a treatment, I had so much regret over not exploring the sinuses, the nasal cavity and the muscles that move the jaw and the eyes.
The following year, I attended an unfixed lab (where the bodies are not embalmed). This was such a different look into the body, that all previous experience was set aside to take it all in. It would be another year before I got back to the head to explore all the things that continued to pique my curiosity.
Pictured here are green aventurine stones, not actual #gallstones but I wanted to you have a visual of the beauty.